Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 41 > Page 19 - Searching for Cape Breton Folk Songs

Page 19 - Searching for Cape Breton Folk Songs

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1986/1/1 (941 reads)

and that stuff. But there is no more of that--listen to that television. Half the stuff on TV isn't fit to listen to. (And of course what television does is wash a- way the stuff from Smelt Brook, Aspy, White Point.) Washes all away that our gen? eration went for. (It's like there's only one generation, there's only one place.) That's all, (Instead of all these small places that each had their own little e- vents and made songs about them.) Yeah, (We listened to Helen Curtis sing "Johnny Nicholson,") Helen Curtis's mother sang that "Johnny Nicholson" for me when she was 105, You wouldn't believe it, would you? I went to see her on Christmas Day. Now, I knew her from the time I was a kid-- I went to see her--she stayed up at Jim Mac's there. I went upstairs with Jim to see her. She was laying in the bed and, my God, she had got small. And Jim said, "Do you think you could sing 'Johnny Nicholson' for him yet?" She was a beautiful singer-- ah, hardly any like her. She said she thought she could. She laid on her back there and sung every word. 105. If I didn't see it I wouldn't believe it. I didn't "think anyone that old had wind e- nough to do it. One of the fellows that was in the. boat (with Johnny Nicholson)--Frank Rambeau-- that was my uncle. My father owned the boat. They took her from White Point, were going to North Harbour--it was on a Sunday. And (my father) told me--he lived up here then--he told me he walked out on the bank and he saw the boat, and she stood out from the point, the wind was westerly--and the next time he looked, he couldn't see her. And he figured there was something happened, he had disappeared. (Helen thought Andrew Dunphy was with the people who went out to get them.) I don't know if he was or- not--I couldn't say. Don't think that Andrew was with them. Andrew only had one arm. He had two but the other one was only just like an in? fant's arm, never developed. The ones that went out--there were three men went out. Their cries were heard by a woman, made the alarm--then there were three men launched a boat and went out, Said there in the song: "Their cries were heard by a female on the shore,,, a boat was launched by three brave men who pulled for all their might.,.," (Did Andrew Dunphy sing?) No, he couldn't sing, (Could he work?) Oh, he could do a lot of work with that one hand, do any? thing he wanted, pretty near. And-a fine fellow. One of the best you could find, I was lonesome for him for years after he died. He used to stay a lot with us, (Did he fish?) No, no, I'll tell you how he lived. Just what the people gave him. Eve? ryone liked him. He went everwheres. If there was anyone sick,' he was there to help out, help out and stay up, set up all night with anyone sick. There was never anyone like him. And he never had anything bad to say about anyone, it was always something good. Everyone liked him. (Never married.) No, (Could Andrew Dunphy write, did he write these songs?) I guess he could, he was a good writer. Smart himself. And maybe the best checker player in the world. With Dan Cameron at Aspy Bay Other kinds of songs we are looking for in the Search for Cape Breton Folk Songs are the ones that Cape Bretoners who worked away brought home with them. These are Cape Breton Folk Songs no matter where they came from, no matter who made them. They are songs that tell us where Cape Bretoners have been, of their interests and work and the people they've met. These are the songs they remembered and brought home, from the many they heard in Maine or Nevj Brunswick, out West, or in connection with Newfoundland. They shared the songs, in their communities. A new song was news and the neighbours would want to hear it. Sometimes they were reluctant to share it, they didn't want it spoiled. One woman told us it was not so much spoiled by others knowing it, but knowing it only in part, perhaps not quite having the air--you hated to hear someone make a mess of it. And surely there must also have been a bit of pride in being the only one with the new song, even for awhile • Dan Cameron is a man who worked away wherever there was work to be found. After the plant? ing, after the hay or the wood was in--he went off in search of work that paid in cash. At 91, he does not sing often--but he has a strong voice and a good inemofy. And he shares his songs. He told us he'd heard lumber songs, songs about explosions and shipwrecks.... And would they be singing those in the lumber camp? Dan Cameron: Yeah, some of them would sing them. (Did you leam any of these songs?) Not very much, no, I didn't, no. (Did you leam one of them?) No, no, I didn't. The way I always found at camp, if you did know a song or a couple of songs, you were never left alone. You'd have to sing that every night that would come. You'd get tired of your own voice. You'd sooner hear someone else sing it. (So you didn't let anybody know that you could sing.) No, no, I didn't. But I never could sing very much. (Just a little bit.) Yes. The only song I ever learned in the camp-- and I don't know as I know two words of it today--that was when I was in New Bruns? wick. From Jack MacFarlane, up on the Maga- guadavic River. He used to sing a song a- bout an explosion was in a pit, called "The Mines of Avondale." I remember the words to that song. I don't know as I can think of it. I did know it. It was--it went: "Come ye Christians all, both great and small,/ I'll pray you lend an ear/ When you'll hear of my mournful story/ you can't but shed a tear...." <20)
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